Dining etiquette can be critical in both the job search process and working with clients in the business world — which is why it is so important to be aware of your actions when having a meal with individuals from different backgrounds and cultures.

Pamplin hosts an International Etiquette Dinner to provide students with an opportunity to learn and practice proper table manners as a young professional. Given that employers will observe the conduct of their guests during meals and social situations, it is essential that students are aware of their actions and leave the right impression.

Below you can find some helpful pieces of advice that were shared during the panel presentation of the International Etiquette Dinner.

Key Takeaways from the Panel Presentation


On which side of the chest should you display your name tag?


Although it is easier for right-handed people to put a name badge on the left side of their chest, name badges are correctly worn on the right side. This is so the person shaking hands has easy eye contact with both the person they are meeting and the badge that person is wearing.


What should I do with my napkin?


As soon as you are seated, place the napkin on your lap. If you need to leave the meal, place the napkin on your chair, loosely folded. After the meal, place your napkin on the left side of your plate. 


Where do I begin with forks and knives?


Start from the outside and work your way in toward your plate. When faced with a full setting of silverware, start with the outermost utensils and work your way in through each course.


What do I do if I drop a piece of silverware, and it falls onto the floor?


Although it may seem strange, do not pick it up. It can be seen as rude and if you were to pick it up, it would be placed back on the table with the risk of being used again.


How fast should I eat?


Pace yourself throughout the meal. You do not want to be the first guest finished, but you also don’t want to be the last.

Unique Customs in Other Countries:

  • In Turkey, If someone offers coffee, it is seen as a sign of disrespect if you choose not to drink it.
  • In China, if you finish everything on your plate, the host will think you are still hungry and will bring you more food. It is polite to leave some food on your plate, as a sign that you are satisfied.
  • In Russia, it is customary to invite people over to your home instead of out to dinner. It is deemed more inviting to open up your home.
  • In many countries, it’s common to accept a drink at dinner from a host. In Russia, always accept an offer of vodka, which is a sign of trust and friendship.
  • If you are at dinner with individuals from different countries, follow the customs of the dinner’s host.

Reasons Why Students Attended

“The food! I was also interested because it’s an international business event, and I’m an international business minor. I also studied abroad last semester in Prague.”–Maggie Hwang, Junior, BIT

“I’m in an International Business fraternity, Sigma Omega Upsilon, and I thought I could take this information back to my organization.”—Jen Zhang, Junior, BIT

“I studied abroad in Spain during the winter break of my sophomore year. It seemed like a cool opportunity, and I value the international program.”—Shiv Kurahatti, Senior, BIT

“We’re Pamplin International Peer Mentors, so we help international students become acclimated to life at Virginia Tech. By participating in events like this, it gives us a chance to connect, explore cultural differences, and learn a lot about other aspects of the world.”—Matthew Stevens, Junior, Real Estate

“These events serve as a good framework to introduce international students to the faculty and staff of Pamplin, and the etiquette dinners are also an important part of the corporate world in America. So it gives us the chance to teach international students the basics of networking and approaching professional individuals.”—Kartik Rustagi, Senior, HTM

“We learned about proper American dining etiquette and the diversity of different cultures from an informed panel.”—Matt Gonley, Sophomore, Computer Science

The International Etiquette Dinner is a three-course meal hosted every year in the spring. This event is free for students, and although the aspects of etiquette stay the same, the members of the panel vary each year.